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Charles Simonds

b. 1945

Charles Simonds, Dwellings, 1981. Part one of a three-part sculpture. Clay, sand, sticks, stones, wood, plaster, cloth, wood, and chicken wire, 17 3/4 × 39 1/2 × 29 in. (45.1 × 100.3 × 73.7 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase with funds from the Louis and Bessie Adler Foundation Inc., Seymour M. Klein, President  81.11a-c  On view in the museum  On view in the museum
© 2009 Charles Simonds / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Charles Simonds’s work explores the relationship between people and architecture. In 1970, he began making miniature settlements that he described as a dwelling, places for an imaginary civilization of Little People who are migrating through the city." Each dwelling seems like a ghost town, as though it was once lived in by people but is now abandoned and in need of repair.
About the artist
Charles Simonds remembers the moment he realized that he was an artist when he created a figure out of clay. Simonds recalls, “I made this figure with all the muscles and everything. I couldn’t believe that I had made this thing, because it was very realistic. I didn’t know I could do that….” As a kid, Simonds made portraits in clay, which would become the material he uses most often in his work.
When did Charles Simonds realize he was an artist?
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“There was never much question as to what I was going to do in life, because working with clay was what I could do…there are things I watch my hand do that are almost thoughtless. I can remember the moment of learning them. It is knowledge you have in the hand.”

—Charles Simonds


Charles Simonds is interested in “How people live in time and space in relation to their architecture" and the relationship of all creatures to their bodies and their environments.


“Every clay is different. It responds differently when you touch it.  If you are aware, it speaks. It tells you who it is.”

—Charles Simonds

Simonds begins a Dwelling by making many tiny bricks, which he cuts with a knife from clay that he has rolled out like cookie dough. He transports the bricks in plastic bags to his “construction site” where he dips them quickly into a “mortar” made of diluted glue and then uses tweezers to carefully stack them in layers.

Simonds’s WORKS